What makes for a useful mental-health mobile application for employee benefits programs?

Mobile apps often do a good job disseminating information, but few can ensure employees follow up on the tips provided, says Mike Kennedy, vice-president and national lead for health strategies and solutions at Aon Hewitt in Toronto. What’s helpful is a mobile application “that creates reminders or sends prompts or ultimately enables [employees] to get some additional support or access to resources to follow up.”

Dr. Rehman Abdulrehman isn’t averse to prescribing apps to his patients. After all, in addition to working as the clinical director at Clinic Psychology in Winnipeg, he’s the director of behavioural science and innovation at SoundMind Health Technologies, which is developing a mobile app for anxiety sufferers.

Read: Survey finds big return on investment in mental health

Well-designed and scientifically based apps, he says, “can increase the independence of an individual so they aren’t reliant just on therapy.” They also reduce costs for third-party providers.

Mental-health apps may also appeal more to younger employees who prefer to consume information on their phones, says Kennedy. “I don’t think it will replace face-to-face counselling but it responds to the interests and needs of a wider variety of potential users of these types of programs.”

Recent research suggests “employers can save $5,000 to $10,000 in wage replacement and sick leave per employee per year if an individual were able to address mental-health difficulties earlier,” says Abdulrehman. Therapy strategies used in some applications, such as challenging negative thoughts, are “inherently validated” and can be more effective than medication.

Read: How to engage employees in Mental Health Week

He recommends companies work with psychologists to develop apps that target their staff’s particular needs, such as depression or anxiety. But Abdulrehman notes that apps, no matter how well designed, aren’t a cure for everything. A meditation app, for example, can “help you learn to meditate and manage stress but it isn’t going to treat all [anxiety symptoms],” he says.

Read: 57% of workplaces have no mental health strategy

So don’t develop an app, axe an employee assistance program and call it a day.

“For those employers looking to not spend a lot of money, they’re not expecting a heavy financial return on investment but they want to have something in place,” says Kennedy.

“But I think we have to be realistic,” he adds. “There’s a big difference between a free app you can download from the app store and the outcomes you might expect to see from professional counselling.”

Questions employers should ask before choosing a mental-health app:

  • How is it different from existing programs?
  • What range of topics does it cover?
  • Is it available on Apple or Android or both?

Read: Hacking your way to a healthier workforce

Copyright © 2022 Transcontinental Media G.P. Originally published on benefitscanada.com

Join us on Twitter

Add a comment

Have your say on this topic! Comments that are thought to be disrespectful or offensive may be removed by our Benefits Canada admins. Thanks!

* These fields are required.
Field required
Field required
Field required